Researchers use lasers to regrow parts of teeth - New York News

Researchers use lasers to regrow parts of teeth

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By FOX NEWS -

For the millions of Americans who suffer cavities each year, the ominous threat of a root canal may soon be a worry of the past.

Now, researchers from Harvard University claim they have discovered a novel way of regrowing parts of people’s teeth using an unlikely tool: Lasers.

In a new study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, lead researcher Praveen Arany and colleagues detailed how they used focused laser light therapy on rats to stimulate the growth of lost dentin, the calcified tissue that comprises teeth. They noted that if the therapy proves effective in humans, it could potentially eliminate the need for crowns, fillings and other complex dental operations in the future.

The procedure’s success all revolves around a native protein called transforming growth factor beta, or TGF-beta. During preliminary tests of dentin tissues, the researchers discovered that this growth factor changed very drastically when introduced to a focused beam of light. Further analysis revealed that when hit with light, TGF-beta actually stimulated the stem cells already present in dentin.

“Once [TGF-beta] is activated by the laser, it can bind to stem cells resident in the tissue, and then it induces those stem cells to differentiate so they can proliferate and reform dentin,” David Mooney, the Pinkas Family Professor of Bioengineering at Harvard University, told FoxNews.com.

Numerous studies have focused on ways to manipulate stem cells in order to spur tissue regeneration, but most of these techniques have revolved around reintroducing altered stem cells into the patient or directing stem cell populations externally through added growth factors. With this form of laser therapy, the only external factor that is being introduced is light, which activates TGF-beta that’s already in the body.

According to Mooney, it’s not the laser’s heat that stimulates TGF-beta but the energy of its photons. When light is focused on dentin, the photons get absorbed into the tissue and activate molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS), which naturally occur in the body. These ROS then stimulate TGF-beta, which spurs the chain reaction ultimately leading to dentin reformation.

However, Mooney noted that the power of the laser must be at a specific level of intensity and cannot produce any heat in order to be effective.

“It’s kind of like Goldilocks, too little won’t do enough and too much will become destructive,” Mooney said. “It has to be just right.”

To test their light therapy’s effectiveness, the researchers created a group of rats with tooth defects, by using a drill to remove pieces of their dentin. They then shined a laser on their exposed tooth structures and soft tissues underneath it. Sure enough, after 12 weeks, the team observed that new dentin had formed in the rats’ teeth.

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